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close this bookPhotovoltaic Household Electrification Programs - Best Practices (WB)
close this folderThe place for photovoltaics
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View the documentThe solar home system
View the documentThe cost of solar home systems
View the documentThe solar home system niche
View the documentConsumer perceptions

Consumer perceptions

2.10 Solar home system users in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic indicate that the systems are valued for more than just monetary savings in kerosene or battery costs. Consumer income and expenditure surveys show that a willingness to pay for a solar home system is greater than what might be expected from a simple avoided-cost analysis. Rural consumers frequently note the following non-monetary advantages of PV home systems over kerosene lighting and rechargeable batteries:

· Higher-quality light, both in terms of lumen output and color rendering ability, making such tasks as reading and studying easier;

· Improved safety levels. Solar home systems eliminate dangers from accidental fires and burns from kerosene devices, candles, or acid spills from batteries;

· Cleaner indoor air, due to reduced (or eliminated) soot and fumes from kerosene and candles;

· Greater reliability and freedom from fuel need;

· Convenient, instantly available light and access to services such as TV and radio, without the need to purchase and transport supplies; and

· An elevated social status associated with electrification.

2.11 Field observations indicate that women and children generally benefit the most from PV electricity services. In both Indonesia and the Dominican Republic, women account for about 25 percent of the signatories on loans for solar home units. Case studies of the Dominican Republic and the Philippines show that women value good-quality lighting, which allows them to perform domestic tasks in the evening, leaving time for activities outside the home during the day. In the Dominican Republic, 10 percent of the women interviewed revealed that the time they saved with their improved lighting allowed them to carry out additional income-generating activities. Similarly, in the Philippines, solar home systems helped women earn money by affording them time to manage local cooperative stores. Women also note that better lighting enables them to respond more quickly to infant needs at night. Children value the additional time to study, watch television or listen to the radio provided by a solar home system.

2.12 While consumers clearly prefer PV home systems to kerosene lamps or candlelight, the solar home systems currently used in developing countries are considered inferior to grid electricity for several important reasons:

· Solar home systems services are limited. The amount of electricity available from a solar home system depends on the capacity of the PV array and the available sunlight. The incremental cost of obtaining more electricity from a solar home system is relatively high for the consumer. In contrast, grid service can offer unlimited amounts of low-cost electricity (unless utilities curtail service hours, impose capacity constraints on consumers, or are unreliable). For example, in Indonesia, rural household power consumption is limited to 450 W with a circuit breaker; diesel-powered isolated grid service is limited to 4-12 hours at night.

· Solar home systems usually require DC appliances. While DC black and white televisions, radios, and some other small appliances are generally available, other DC appliances are not widely available or cost more than their AC equivalents.

· Subsidized grid connection fees are generally lower than down payments required for credit sales of solar home systems.

· Since most rural electrification programs are heavily subsidized, grid-based electricity tariffs are also significantly lower than fees or finance charges for solar home systems.

2.13 Consumer education is directly related to consumer perceptions. It is important that customers understand the capabilities of a solar home system before acquiring it. In the past, unrealistic perceptions (such as the belief that small 50-Wp systems can power large household appliances) have led to customer dissatisfaction. Widespread dissatisfaction can sabotage efforts to promote the use of solar home systems.